The sensory receptors for hearing and balance are called neuronal hair cells, and are found in the inner ear. Damage to these hair cells from age or disease can cause hearing loss or difficulties with balance with symptoms of giddiness, nausea and vertigo. Generally, hair cells in man do not regenerate after they are lost.
Our collaborator, Professor Stefan Heller at Stanford University, has managed to differentiate Cord Lining Stem Cells into neuronal hair cells. These can be further studied to turn off the molecular ‘switch’ that prevents hair cell regeneration, or they may be directly transplanted to replace the lost cells.